Ernest Hemingway is one of the most acclaimed authors of the 20th century. Born in Illinois in the USA in 1899, Hemingway lived a very interesting life and even served as a volunteer in World War I. He worked as a journalist for many years, acting as a foreign correspondent during the Second World War. Following the war, he settled for a time in Paris, and then went on to live in Cuba, and later covered the Spanish Civil War as a reporter. Sadly, when he felt he could no longer write well, Hemingway ended his own life.
The life and work of Ernest Hemingway have gone on to become one of the most widely studied oeuvres for those tackling literature in their higher education. This is largely due to the revolutionary writing style pioneered by the author. Hemingway’s time as a journalist heavily influenced his writing style, causing him to work with snappy language and short sentences. This writing style influenced many authors who have come since and is part of the reason why Hemingway is encountered so often in college literature courses. As an introduction to this 20th-century icon, here are five of the best books penned by Ernest Hemingway.
1. Hills Like White Elephants (1927)
This well-known short story was first published in the magazine transition in 1927 and was included in Hemingway’s 1927 story collection Men Without Women. The Hills Like White Elephants is set in a Spanish train station and follows a conversation that takes place between a man and a woman. Central to the story is the man’s wish for the woman to undergo an “operation”, the exact nature of which is never openly stated. It is implied, however, that this operation is an abortion.
The use of symbolism in this short story is a major reason for which it is so heavily studied by literature students. Many students in their college literature classes decode the various uses of symbolism throughout the Hills Like White Elephants analysis essays. The theme of change is a commonly discussed topic in essay examples dedicated to this story, and the train station setting is understood to be a symbol for crossroads in life. The popularity of this story has remained steadfast over time and is one of the most well-known Hemingway short stories.
2. The Old Man and the Sea (1952)
The Old Man and the Sea is a short novel published in 1952 and is one of Ernest Hemingway’s most famous works. It was the last major piece of writing that the author published while he was still alive. It follows the tale of Santiago, an ageing fisherman struggling to break an unlucky streak during which he has not caught a fish for several months. The novel was released after a lull in Hemingway’s career and for many signalled the revitalisation of his writing. It was regarded as an instant classic, and many compare it to a modern Moby Dick by Herman Melville.
3. To Have and Have Not (1937)
Hemingway’s 1937 novel To Have and Have Not follows the story of Harry Morgan, the captain of a fishing boat in Key West, Florida. Morgan ends up becoming a smuggler between Cuba and Florida, in order to cope with the financial hardship of the Great Depression. Hemingway himself resided in both Key West and Cuba for much of his life, and this influence is clearly felt throughout the novel.
4. A Farewell to Arms
A Farewell to Arms is set during the First World War on the Italian front. It tells the story of an American lieutenant and the love affair he has with an English nurse. This novel was Hemingway’s first best-seller and cemented his reputation as an important modern writer. Its fame and reputation have led it to be adapted for both stage and screen a number of times since its publication.
5. For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940)
This novel was first published in 1940 and tells the story of Robert Jordan, an American volunteer fighting in the Spanish Civil War. The plot follows his mission to destroy a bridge during a siege on the city of Segovia. This novel is often regarded as one of Hemingway’s finest works and deals with the themes of death and camaraderie.
These are the top five books to start with for anyone interested in exploring the writing of Ernest Hemingway.